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History of Crystal Meth

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Following the creation of amphetamine in Germany in 1887, methamphetamine – more potent and easier to make – was developed in Japan in 1919.

Fast forward. Despite being not even a blip on the radar screen of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency thirty years ago, crystal meth is now a national crisis. Its prolific production and the rapid rise in number of addictions to it pose two of the biggest challenges facing families and police forces alike.1

What is Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth and piipeCrystal meth is a crystallized form of methamphetamine. All methamphetamines are highly addictive stimulants that can boost mood, increase feelings of well-being, raise energy level and elevate alertness.2

All methamphetamines produce these kinds of effects by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine – a chemical that is produced and regulated by certain regions of the brain – is involved in body movement, motivation, pleasure and reward.

Crystal meth produces a long-lasting, intense high that can leave users “strung out” for days or weeks at a time. The initial rush of good feelings produced by methamphetamines gives way to gruffness, excitability, anger and/or fear on the back side of the “high.” 3

While methamphetamine is a white, bitter powder or pill, crystal meth looks like shiny, white or clear rocks or glass fragments.4

How Does a User Become Addicted?

After taking crystal meth, the desire to use more typically becomes very strong. This physical pull to keep taking more of a drug is called “dependence.” Becoming dependent on a drug is part of the addiction cycle. Crystal meth addicts are also likely to develop a strong “tolerance” to the drug, which means that, with continued use, more and more of the drug must be taken in order to achieve the same desired effect.2

Soldiers Were Routinely Given Methamphetamine in World War II

Soldiers landing on Omaha BeachAs incredible as it now seems, methamphetamine went into wide use during World War II, with both sides in the war doling it out in order to keep troops awake and energized.High doses were given to Japanese Kamikaze pilots before their infamous suicide missions. After the war, methamphetamine abuse by injection reached epidemic proportions when supplies that had been stored for military use became available to the public in Japan.On the American front, many soldiers returned home with a full-blown addiction to stimulants; for some, this was the start of a lifelong battle with drug use.1

Meth Became a Popular Prescription for Civilians Too

In the 1950s, doctors worldwide began prescribing methamphetamines to their patients for symptoms of depression, as well as to help with weight loss. As with the distribution to soldiers in WWII, this practice led to additional thousands of American citizens becoming addicted to stimulants. Since dependence upon methamphetamines can occur very quickly, many innocent lives were burdened by the addictive nature of this substance.1

Use of Crystal Meth Has Continued to Escalate

Motorcycle gangThe 1960s brought increased availability of injectable methamphetamines, which only made abuse more widespread. Then in the 1970s, when the U.S. government made this drug illegal for most uses, American motorcycle gangs came to control much of its production and distribution. During that time, meth was the more affordable option to cocaine. Users lived predominantly in rural communities across the nation.

With drug dealers crystallizing meth for snorting, smoking or injecting, the number of Americans addicted to meth has continued to rise and the cost of the product has continued to fall.1

Where is it Being Made?

In the 1990s, Mexican drug trafficking organizations set up large production facilities hidden in the deserts of California and Mexico. While police and drug enforcement agents were busy busting these large operations, meth labs were being set up in people’s homes everywhere. This home-grown production gave rise to a new nickname, “stove top,” for this drug.Other nicknames for crystal meth are: crank, chalk, crystal, fire, glass, go fast, ice and speed.4

Unlike cocaine and heroin, crystal meth can be made from household products, such as paint thinner, acetone and battery acid. The only essential ingredient is ephedrine, or its cousin, pseudoephedrine – both of which can be found in many cold medicines. Today, small “kitchen” meth labs, which are the hardest operations for law enforcers to locate and stop, produce most of what is distributed throughout the country.5

How Is Crystal Meth Addiction Most Effectively Treated Today?

The most effective form of treatment for crystal meth addiction to date is behavioral therapy. Examples of this type of approach include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy –This treatment strategy helps patients recognize, avoid and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs.
  • Motivational incentives – This approach uses vouchers or small cash rewards to encourage patients to remain drug-free.

While research is under way, there are currently no government-approved medications to treat a crystal meth addiction.4

Even if Crystal Meth Is Your History, It Doesn’t Have to Be Your Future

Michael’s House, located in Palm Springs, California, is an outstanding residential rehab facility offering a full menu of world-class services. Our addiction treatment professionals understand the highly volatile nature of crystal meth and work closely with patients to treat the physical and psychological nature of addiction to this drug. Contact Michael’s House on our toll-free 24/7 line for more information.


1History of Methamphetamine.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World. 2016. Web. Accessed 2 June 2017.

2Methamphetamine (Meth).” NIDA for Teens, National Institute on Drug Abuse, May 30, 2017.Web. Accessed 2 June 2017.